Since uploading my last blog post, my life has drastically changed. I am no longer surrounded by 49 other Americans in the small East German village of Hedersleben, but rather I have been in my wonderful host community Erfurt for two months now, living with a host family and attending a Gymnasium (a German highschool). In that time I have managed to learn enough German to navigate my way around the city (and even have some basic conversations with people I meet!), struggled through Physics class in a different language, and consumed an unusually large amount of bread. Furthermore, now that I am two months into my exchange year, I have started to really settle in, and even established a (semi-normal) weekly routine:
Montag/ Monday: Monday’s are what I call my “STEM days”, as I have Informatik (computer science), Mathmatik (math) and Physik (physics). I will go into more depth about my school schedule and the general structure of my Gymnasium in a future blog post, but I will say that by the end of my third class I am usually pretty tired! I then have a short free period, which I use to get some food from the nearby grocery store or even run errands downtown if I am feeling particularly ambitious, before heading to Sports class. I finish Sports at around 16:30, before taking the Straßenbahn, or tram, (my main mode of transportation) home. I get home around 17:00, and after showering I usually hang out with my 10 year old host sister (lately we have been watching Disney channel shows auf Deutsch) before family dinner. We have family dinner everyday at approximately 18:30 which I really appreciate, as family dinners were a constant back home in the US. It’s always a great time to catch up on each other’s days, especially if it happens to be a particularly hectic day/week. After dinner I usually take some time to text and talk to friends and family back in the States, as well as some friends from language camp, do homework and work on German. In the evenings I often end up watching TV with my host parents, anything from the news to a reality show to a movie. When I start to feel tired or we finish the show/movie we were watching, I head up to my room where I journal and read before going to bed. Journaling everyday has been a great way of recording my time abroad, but it’s also slowly becoming essential in navigating all the stress and hardships that come with living in a different country and being alone for the first time.
Dienstag/ Tuesday: My Tuesday’s start early with Informatik at “zero hour”, but the plus side is I get out of school early at 13:35! Following Informatik, I have Deutsch class, Englisch (English) and WR (essentially a class on economics and law). Afterschool I usually head downtown (again, riding the Straßenbahn), where I have a few hours to kill before basketball. This has been a great time to explore the city, from trying new cafes to visiting Europe’s oldest synagogue or one of Erfurt’s many churches. My goal has been to visit at least one new area or big attraction a week, and in doing so I have seen so much of the city and learned a great deal about Erfurt’s history. After exploring that week’s site, I make my way over to Basketball, which requires walking through Erfurt’s “kleines Venedig” (little Venice) which is a charming neighborhood with multiple rivers. I never played basketball in the States, but I was invited by one of my classmates to come. Even though I was super nervous to try it, everything worked out great! Sports in Germany are much more lowkey than in the United States as the focus tends to be on having fun rather than competition, and thus it has been a great environment to try basketball for the first time. Furthermore, since sports tend to be organized outside of school, the other girls on the team come from Gymnasiums all over Erfurt, so I have been able to meet a ton of new people! Afterwards, I walk through the Altstadt (the old part of the city) to get to the Strassenbahn stop so I can take it home, where I shower, have family dinner, and then continue with my night routine as usual.
Mittwoch/Wednesday: Wednesday’s are probably my longest days, although I get out of school early at 13:35, after having Mathmatik, Geschichte, and Ethik . After school I head downtown and stop to get a coffee or hot chocolate, and if I’m in the mood a berliner, before heading to German lessons. One of my host parents’ family friends, who was an exchange student in the United States as a teenager, offered to tutor me in German, so I go to her house for one hour every week. Although I learn so much German everyday through school, friends and my host family, I’ve noticed that I have a lot of gaps in my knowledge when it comes to basic grammar rules or vocabulary. Thus, these lessons have been really essential in furthering my German knowledge, and it’s also great to have a time to practice speaking with lots of feedback. Afterwards, I hang out in the Altstadt, usually using that time to catch up on journal entries from busy weekends or just journal for a little bit longer than usual, before heading off to my second basketball practice of the week. This one takes place on the opposite side of town from where I live, so the commute can be quite long, plus I finish on the later side. As a result, my host dad comes to pick me up by car, which I greatly appreciate. Usually I miss family dinner on Wednesdays since I get home so late, but there is always food waiting for me and at least one of my host parents sits with me while I eat it. On Wednesdays I usually stay up a little later than normal, since I have a late start the next day, so I tend to use that time to call friends back home.
Dienstag/Thursday: My favorite school day of the week! I have a free Stunde, or hour, first period so my first class of the day doesn’t start until 10:00, meaning I get to sleep in!! On Thursdays I have Deustch, Mathmatik, Englisch and Spanisch, and I am done by 2:35. Afterwards I usually spend some time downtown, most likely getting a snack, before heading to swim practice. Swimming was my main sport in the U.S., so I am glad I get to continue doing it, although I have noticed tons of differences here in Germany, most notably the same laid back attitude that I have found in basketball. I will most likely go more into depth about sports in a later blog post to further explain these differences. After swim practice I am either picked up by my host dad or I take the public transportation (bus, then Strassenbahn) home, where I have dinner, do homework, etc.
Freitag/Friday: On Fridays I have Geschichte, Physik, Spanisch, and Kunst (art class). I get out of school at 3:30, and usually head straight home, unless there is something I need to do downtown. Since Friday is the one day of the week I don’t have any sort of sports activity, I have the house to myself for a few hours, which I usually use to organize myself after the week. I then spend time with my host family before and after dinner, and occasionally call a friend in the evening.
Wochenende/Weekend: My weekends vary drastically week by week, especially if we go out of town! On a more normal weekend I have swim practice on Saturdays from 9:30 - 11:00, but otherwise I don’t do much other than eat a large breakfast with my host family and do some sort of activity with them, often something physical like hiking. Additionally, now that I am making friends here in Germany, we usually hang out on the weekend. Since I am from a small town, it has been lots of fun to see what people do when spending time with friends that doesn’t involve just going to the supermarket or the one open fast food restaurant - turns out cities have lots of cool things to do! If I have any homework due soon I try and get it done, but overall my weekends are dedicated to doing nothing strenuous, which after a long week is very nice! On the other hand, especially if it is a long weekend, we sometimes go on a trip to a nearby (or not so nearby city), which is always very exciting and has been a great way to see more of Germany. Hopefully I will blog about some of those adventures soon!
Now that I finally have a more routine schedule, I feel a lot more adjusted to my new life here in Germany, which is a great feeling. Furthermore, since I am no longer constantly busy with AP classes, school sports, clubs, etc. like I was in the States, I now have a lot more time for doing things like reading and journaling, which I have really come to love. I also use my time on public transportation to listen to podcasts, my favorites being Coffee Break German and Pod Save the World/US, which have helped improve my German and knowledge of current events, respectively.
As I mentioned earlier, I hope to do some more blog posts on different topics I mentioned in this one - school, sports, etc. - so keep an eye out for that! In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to my instagram (@elizlovesbread) with any questions you may have.
Until next time, Tschüss!